When Dogstar Boutique and Spa first reopened after the shutdown, co-owner Sony Choi worried pet owners would be apprehensive about having their dogs groomed, which she says comprises about 50 per cent of the business.
Many of the dogs that had been coming in for regular grooming pre-COVID, since Dogstar opened in 2019, had gotten used to staying home and interacting only with their owners.
But, when some of the dogs came back for grooming, it just took a little while for them to get used to the spa all over again, Choi says.
The timing for opening a new business — just before a pandemic — may not have been great, but the location at 292 Eglinton Ave. W. was.
Choi says the family-run business had looked for a long time “for the perfect spot.” They chose the Eglinton and Avenue Road area because there are so many dog owners in the neighbourhood.
Choi was adamant that a “pet shop should be for the pet,” not the owner. Her experience with her own dog had made her realize the importance of keeping the shop uncluttered.
“Every time I took him for grooming or to a pet store, there was too much product and not enough space,” she said. She found this tmade pets nervous and overwhelmed.
Making dogs feel relaxed, particularly first-time visitors and puppies, is something that Choi has made a priority, especially when the shop reopened after the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Every dog that comes through the door feels like [my] own dog,” she said.
Soft music is always played in the spa, as “dogs like the sounds of voices and music.”
Dogstar also offers a variety of lavish bubble spa treatments, which Steve Kang, Choi’s husband and co-owner of Dogstar, said are “more [specifically] for the skin,” especially for dogs that sometimes tend to experience itchiness.
After dogs luxuriate in Dogstar’s treatments, dead skin comes right off in the bath. “Owners can see the difference,” Choi said.
For a shinier, healthy coat, Dogstar offers a special silk pack using products that have been created to keep dogs’ fur silky and their skin healthy. When Choi researched the silk products, she was amazed to learn about their benefits.
“The silk pack is like a mask we put on our face,” she said. The products are great for senior dogs or dogs with fluffy coats, such as poodles, Pomeranians and Yorkshire terriers.
As larger dogs generally need to use a ramp to get up into the bath tub, which Choi said is sometimes “too scary for them,” she put in a staircase leading up to the tub, specifically to make it easier and more calming for them.
Choi ensures the spa does not get too busy at any one time, by not booking back-to-back appointments, which also helps make for a more serene atmosphere. As this is especially true in today’s world, only three people, along with their pets, are allowed into Dogstar at any given time. Masks are mandatory and hand sanitizer is readily available upon entry.
Dogstar is a cage-free environment, where dogs are given free reign to roam around or relax in the off-leash area while they are waiting to be picked up after they have been groomed. As an extra precaution, “we have pet-friendly sanitizer,” Choi said. “Each time a dog has been groomed, we sanitize their leash and collar, tables, scissors, combs and everything.”
The sanitizer is also used on all surfaces at the end of each day.
Thankfully, regular customers are coming back, as well as many new clients who Choi said bought what they refer to as “COVID puppies” purchased during the pandemic. Dogstar is now carrying additional products specifically geared to puppies, including toys and food. In order to prepare for the cold weather ahead, lots of new warm coats for dogs of all sizes are also available.
Dogstar is for people who are, as Choi said, “serious about the care and happiness of their pets.”